Go Photo: If I can do it, anyone can

Following on from the photography competition we launched last week I thought it only fair that I offer some examples of my attempts at photography. I want to prove that it really is easy to get involved in photography (note I didn’t say it was easy to be a good photographer before all you pro snappers get angry) and reiterate again how important it can be as a journalist.

After my references to my sports photographer in this morning’s post I thought I would continue with that theme…. Read more of this post


Me, the Student and some big time boxers: The big blag

Being in the right place at the right time may be a well-worn cliché but it is one which still holds great relevance for all us aspiring journalists. Being on work experience as a massive story breaks, having a camera as you spot someone dropping a fire extinguisher off a roof or bumping into a drunken celebrity in a dirty backstreet bar – all of these kind of situations give us wannabe hacks a chance to make a name for ourselves. But being in the right place at the right time often isn’t enough.

It is how you use your chance that counts and often you need to be able to blag.

One of my shots of the young boxer

Whilst at University both myself and the Student had the chance to interview a fellow student who was also a young boxer for Great Britain. After what I believe was a hotly disputed rock, paper, scissors contest it was decided that he got the interview, I would take the pictures (still a little bitter, I’m not going to lie). So off we went, knowing in advance that this Olympic hopeful would be accompanied by his agent/PR/bloke in a suit who funnily enough had some shaving foam still on his face as we shook hands. Still it was nice of him to make the effort.

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Journalists should get snap happy – and here’s an incentive

A picture is worth a thousand words…

Don’t worry; we at Hacks haven’t resorted to just spouting clichés and quotes at you we have a point to make and that point is all about the value of the photograph.

Photography is a subject we have neglected on Hacks and this is something we are rather embarrassed about. Having all been section editors or editor-in-chief of our student newspaper we know from first hand experience how important a photo is to a piece of journalism and to a newspaper or magazine in general.

In fact, issues with photos even prompted both myself and The Student to become ‘photographers’ for the paper, covering sport fixtures and providing images for news stories. Are either of us experts? No. Are we going to be pros in the future? No. All we had were cameras, of varying quality, and a recognition of the importance of a photograph.

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Listen up: some tips on interviewing

Image courtesy of Dadagueiros

Interview I

This week at City we had a chat with Sunday Times interviewer Camilla Long. Interesting as she was in my humble opinion dear reader, it wasn’t the most enlightening of discussions with the British Press Awards interviewer of the year. We heard about how certain celebrities had ‘definitely had a facelift’ but not how Ms Long went about interviewing them. And so that leads me nicely on to my own offerings for some practical advice based on my own interviewing experiences, which although not as lengthy as my mate Camilla still provides some good examples of the pitfalls and problems of this tricky business.


Yes, have questions ready but be ready to be flexible. Yes have two dictaphones. Yes have loads of pens, but the kind of preparation I am talking about is being prepared for people. You have to be prepared for people. It sounds daft but what I mean is you can have questions ready and be keen to listen but if the other person isn’t giving you what you want – or anything at all – you have to be ready so that you can get something from the interview. Whilst on work experience I rang an amateur golfer for comments on his recent success and participation in an upcoming tournament. After several broad, inviting but perhaps slightly long-winded questions I was left with these quotes…

“Yeah, really pleased yeah.”

“Yeah, well excited yeah.”

“Oh yeah, well excited.”

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Farewell the Detective – big city life finds him out

Ned Murray

Whilst reading this blog over the last month and a half it might have come to your attention that I haven’t been active in updating you with my latest experience adjusting to life in London and training as an investigative journalist.

There is one simple answer to this: I no longer live in London, I am not currently training to be an investigative journalist and from this post on I am no longer a Wannabe Hack.


After just a month living in Bethnal Green and at the start of my fourth week of my MA at City University London I made the very difficult decision to defer my place at City. Having spent the past weeks debating my choice I know now that I made the right decision.

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Wayne Rooney holiday. Cheryl Cole tights.

This blog will get you a job in journalism. I am so sorry, that was a lie, but I hope that the opening line at least made you read as far as this sentence and therefore allows me to introduce my latest hack topic – being able to write a good introduction.

In learning how to become 21st century journalists we are being taught all the latest tricks of the trade, about social media, blogging blah, blah, blah. Despite all that new fangled crazy stuff some things never change and one of those things is the need for a good introduction. Capture the reader’s attention, get them interested in the first five words, write it as you would tell someone in the street, these are the kind of hints and tips which we young journo whipper snappers must remember everyday. But it isn’t really as simple as that is it?

How the hell do I make that sound worth a read?

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Specialising is dead; long live specialism

Today I begin my ‘specialism’ module at City University. Now, you would be forgiven for thinking that when given the chance to specialise in something I would choose a subject close to my heart or something I am particularly interested in. Anyone who has read my bio or knows anything about me will be thinking, ‘Ah, he’ll have gone for sport’. Not even close. Sport was an option, as was music journalism, investigative journalism and UK politics but I didn’t go for any off those subjects, all of which interest me. No, today I begin what will be a steep learning curve in specialising in ‘Finance and Business’. Yeah, exactly.

Financial Times

Could my 'specialism' get me a job here?

Now, when I first set out on my travels towards journo land I wanted to be a sports hack and my journalism related work over the past few years has reflected this desire. However, at City I, along with the other students, were advised to pick a specialism a little out of our comfort zone and so – always striving to be a little unusual – I picked three preferences which I knew next to nothing about. And so here I am about to learn how to speak business and money.

But far more revealing and interesting than the fact that I am undertaking a module that the 18-year-old version of myself would have avoided like a plague of drunken cockney wide boys, is that fact that I am really quite positive about it. Rather, I am positive about it because of the pragmatic approach which clearly needs to be taken to getting a job in journalism today.

Long gone are the days when I could put all my eggs in the sport journo basket and hope for the best. I was forever being told at my various work experience placements last summer, ‘just take a job, you won’t get what you want, you might not get sport until you’re 50’ and to be honest, whilst slightly depressing, it seems like sound advice. It is no longer enough to have an in-depth knowledge of one subject area, we have to be the jack-of-all-trades journalists.

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Rupert has no chance until everyone joins the paywall revolution

The man with a stubborn plan

Everyone likes Alan Rusbridger don’t they? (Hi Alan, love your work) The main man at the Guardian is seen by many of us helpless, stumbling foals in this turbulent time in journo land as the shining light, the thoroughbred who will guide us….alright I’ll stop it now he has a lot to say about the future of journalism and a lot of people like what he says. Well, the pantomime villain of journo land, Ol’ Rupert Murdoch, can’t be such a big fan because it is Rusbridger and others in positions of influence that are stopping this paywall business being big business and becoming the future of journalism.

Red tops get pricey

As the News of the World website stopped serving us free exclusives for us to gorge on, and put a big debit card-operated lock on the fridge door I began to ponder, as many other writers have, on all this paywall business and that poor old Rupert just hasn’t got this one quite right has he? (Don’t listen to those haters though Rupert, I think you’re a top bloke.)

I can honestly say I have never been on the News of the World website (don’t scoff, I’m telling the truth) and sadly I will never know what treats I have been missing out on now the paywall has gone up. On this occasion my missing out on something isn’t because I’m a tight git, I am just not going to pay for something when I can get it for free elsewhere. Common sense really isn’t it? Any of the hot gossip or salacious celebrity titbits can be found on other paper websites; Rupert’s other red top, The Sun, for example. Bizarrely the free site had a link to its expensive sibling the other day…something not quite right in the PR department there.

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Oh no. I will have to become one of THEM

Chancer and Intern

The Chancer (left) and The Intern (right)

On Monday morning myself, The Student and The Detective were sat in a lecture about the much-debated, much-loved and much-mocked field of online journalism. Paul Bradshaw gave the lecture and began by telling everyone that they could tweet him with the hashtag for the lecture. Out came the iPhones, Blackberrys, Androids, Samsungs and more. And there I sat with my Sony Ericsson T280 (I found out its exact name by googling ‘Sony Ericsson old’) which is incapable of tweeting, accessing the internet or doing anything remotely social media-ish.

Not to be deterred I began texting updates to The Intern and was pleased to see the tweets from the Wannabe Hacks appearing on the big screen. By the way, before you all start shouting and hollering that you can text tweets to Twitter, I know, my phone doesn’t do that either. But the more I hurriedly text, desperately hoping for some shameless publicity, the more I realised something which disturbed me greatly.

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London life takes a bit of getting used to

After winning my place at City University at the end of May, I have finally made the move down to London for the start of my MA in Investigative Journalism. It has been quite a strange couple of weeks and a fairly difficult transition to make to this new life.

I spent the whole summer working as a gardener and living at home in order to earn as much cash as possible to support myself until the end of June next year. Like most people who started an undergraduate degree at university, after the introduction of higher tuition fees in September 2007, I have a significant amount of debt and have been incredibly lucky that my parents have lent me the money to pay the course fees at City.

Then there is the high cost of living. It is only just over two weeks since I moved here and I already find myself struggling a little to make ends meet. Cash seems to burn very quickly using the Tube so I have to make the 3 mile journey from Bethnal Green to Islington during the week by bike. Added to that are the numerous friends to catch up with, usually involving going to the pub for a few drinks, paying rent and food.

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